A barbute (termed a barbuta in Italian) is a visorless war helmet of 15th-century Italian design, often with distinctive "T" shaped or "Y" shaped opening for the eyes and mouth. The name is first recorded in an inventory made for the Gonzaga family of Mantua in 1407. It can be considered as a specialised form of the sallet. The barbute resembles classical Greek helmets (most strikingly the Corinthian) and may have been influenced by a renewed interest in ancient artifacts which was common in this period.
The defining characteristic of the barbute is the fact that the shape of the helmet extends all the way down to cover both sides of the face. Regardless of the type of opening—which could be T-shaped, Y-shaped or arch-shaped, this characteristic is practically always present. This made the wearing of a gorget optional. In place of a plate gorget the barbute would have often been worn with a stiffened mail collar, termed a "standard," which protected the throat and neck. On some examples, there is a central, narrow protrusion extending down from the top of the opening, designed to protect the wearer's nose. Sometimes, like Italian sallets, barbutes were covered by a rich decorative fabric, most typically heavy velvet.
Unlike the sallet the barbute seems to have enjoyed little popularity outside Italy.
The main differences between the barbute and the Greek hoplite's helm to which it is often compared are the difference in material (Ancient Greeks used bronze) and the lack of a prominent decorative crest.
Barbutes were made mostly from a single sheet of steel using the metal smithing process of raising until the piece assumed the desired shape. Often a low ridged crest was forged into the top of the helmet's skull which served to strengthen the helmet without adding a significant amount of weight.
In Popular Culture
- In the Lord of the Rings franchise, two human military empires give their soldiers barbutes: The Men of Gondor wear conical-topped steel ones featuring seagull wings subtly embossed out from the inside; while the Men of Rhûn (Easterlings) wear backless bronze ones with chin-protection and three thin horns: two symmetrical rectangular ones on the back of the dome, and a figure-7 one on the front. In the same franchise, The Elven troops of the Last Alliance (the High Elves of Middle-earth) wear gold barbutes with Corinthian-looking crests on top.
- The Star Wars character, Boba Fett, also wears a helmet with a T-shaped visor that vaguely resembles a barbute, as do most other Mandalorians and Phase I Clonetroopers within the franchise.
- In Marvel Comic's X-Men, villain Magneto wears a specialized barbute to thwart psychic abilities that might be used against him.
- Oakeshott, pp. 109-110
- Leonello Boccia, Armi Italiane, Zanichelli, Bologna, 1966.
- Quattro Secoli di Armi Bianche, I Documentari, Novara, 1973.
- Oakeshott, Ewart (1980) European Weapons and Armour: From the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution. Lutterworth Press.